Petition Submitted for Citizen Initiative to Add New Tax to Fund Homecare Services

On January 26, the Maine People's Alliance (MPA) submitted a petition to the Secretary of State's office that, if certified, would put a citizen-initiated petition on the ballot asking voters to increase Maine's payroll tax by 1.9% on salaries and wages over $127,000, to be assessed on employees and employers, and by adding a 3.8% tax on non-wage income, such as stocks and bonds, over $127,000. The tax would go toward providing more in-home care for Maine's elderly and disabled. The petition submitted on January 26 must have at least 61,123 certified signatures in order to qualify for the ballot, and the MPA says they have collected 67,000 signatures. The Secretary of State's office has until Wednesday, February 28 to certify that there are enough valid signatures to meet the state constitutional requirements.

Governor LePage Nominates George Gervais for Director of Maine State Housing Authority, John Gallagher for MSHA Board of Directors

On Thursday, February 1, Governor LePage nominated George Gervais to be director of the Maine State House Authority (MSHA) and John Gallagher to serve on the MSHA Board of Directors. Currently, George Gervais is serving as the Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), which amongst other things, administers the Community Development Block Grants that invest about $2.7 million annually in housing efforts in Maine. John Gallagher is the immediate past director of MSHA, having retired in November 2017, and was previously executive director of Westbrook Housing Authority. In the next few weeks, the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee will hold public hearings on the nominations and the Committee recommendations will then go to the Senate for final action.

Governor LePage Issues Executive Orders to Create Wind Advisory Commission, and Committees on Animal Cruelty and Highly Automated Vehicles

Governor LePage has issued three new executive orders in as many weeks to create three new entities. On January 18, the Governor issued an Executive Order to create the Maine Highly Automated Vehicles Advisory Committee to study highly autonomous vehicle technology, potential pilot projects, and paths to adopt highly autonomous vehicle laws in Maine. On January 24, Governor LePage issued an executive order to create the Maine Wind Advisory Commission and put a moratorium on new permits related to wind turbines. The Maine Wind Advisory Commission is tasked with studying the economic impact that wind turbine development has on the tourism industry in Maine, and proposing policies for future wind turbine development in Western Maine. On Monday, January 29, Governor LePage signed another executive order to create The Committee to Review Maine Animal Cruelty Investigations. The Committee will investigate the rising occurrences of animal abuse, which the executive order says are straining human and financial resources at all levels of Maine’s government.

Maine Board of Pharmacy Approves Amended Rules for Sale of Naloxone to those Over 21

In 2016, the Legislature passed a law over the Governor's veto allowing over-the-counter sales of naloxone. In 2017, the Board of Pharmacy adopted rules to allow individuals over 18 to purchase the overdose antidote, without a prescription, at a pharmacy. Those rules had been stalled for months because Governor LePage opposed the sale to 18-year-olds, who are no longer allowed to buy cigarettes under Maine law. On Monday, January 29, Speaker Gideon and Senate Minority Leader Jackson sent a letter to the Board of Pharmacy urging them to take action on the rules. On Thursday morning, February 1, the Board of Pharmacy met and adopted amended rules that will allow the sale of naloxone only to individuals at least 21 years old. The Board of Pharmacy will await his approval of the amended rules, which he has indicated he will provide.

Legislative Council Meets, Admits Few After-Deadline Bills

The Legislative Council met on Thursday, January 25 and heard testimony from sponsors of after-deadline bill requests. The Council voted to allow a few bills, but either tabled or rejected the majority of the after-deadline requests. Several of the bill requests pertain to net neutrality, though none of those were admitted. Several bills submitted in December remain on the table. In all, the Council still has to take action on about 19 bills. The next Legislative Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 15 at 1:30 p.m. in the Legislative Council Chambers.